If you’ve never been to the Getty Center in Los Angeles before, you’ll be a bit surprised when you drive up to the parking lot… because you won’t see a museum there.
While the parking lot is on street level, the Getty Center Los Angeles itself is located in the Santa Monica Mountains. Once you’ve dropped off your car you have to take a (free) futuristic looking tram to get there. I thought this was quite unique and it immediately raised my expectations for our visit. Luckily, those expectations were entirely met.
Visiting the Getty Center Los Angeles
Background information on the Getty Center museum
The Getty Museum was founded in May 1954 by businessman and writer J. Paul Getty, who had been acquiring European paintings, Roman and Greek antiquities and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French furniture and decorative arts since the early 1930s.
Originally, the Getty Museum was housed in J. Paul Getty’s Ranch House in Malibu. In 1968, Getty announced his plans to re-create the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum there and construction works began in 1970. This new Getty Museum, which we now know as the Getty Villa opened its door to the public in January 1974. Up until this day the villa houses Roman and Greek art.
When Getty died, in 1976, he left a legacy of over 1 billion dollars. This money would be used to transform the Getty Museum into an internationally renowned institution of the arts. The scope of the museum was expanded, new collections were added, an art library founded and programs around conservation and preservation were organized.
It was at that point that plans for a new building arose. Antique arts would stay at the Getty Villa while the rest of the collections would move to a new center in the Santa Monica mountains, together with the other Getty projects. Construction works began in 1989 and eight years later the center opened to the public.
Our experience at the Getty museum
At the end of the tram ride is the Getty Center. It’s not just one building, but a collection of several pavilions in the same style of which some are linked to each other so that you can walk from one building to the other without stepping outside.
All of these buildings are positioned around a central square from where you can reach the garden. The garden isn’t that big, but it’s very well kept and offers amazing views over Los Angeles. We already got some great views going up in the funicular, but those were nothing compared to the view from the Getty garden.
When we were visiting there was an exhibition around the character heads by German artist Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. Cool about this exhibition was that there was also an interactive part where you had to go sit in front of a television screen which showed you several of Messerschmidt’s works. The goal was to copy the expression on the faces of the character heads… and have it captured on camera.
Behold the result:
Quite charming, don’t you think? The first one is my favorite.
What I really liked about the Getty was the variety in its exhibitions. We saw photography, decorative art, paintings, and sculptures. Everything was presented in such a way that you didn’t have to wonder about how to walk next. Apparently, the exhibitions also change often, which makes the Getty a place to go back to even more so.
At the end of our visit, we had a look around the gift shop. I usually love museum gift shops because they often have a combination of ‘serious’ gift and more quirky things. At the Getty Center shop, I bought a handbook of the Getty collections. I haven’t opened it once since I got back home from that trip over a year ago (until now, that is, writing this post), but I’m still very happy I bought it. It lies in plain sight in our living room and whenever I see it, it takes me back to our visit.
We were only there for a little less than two hours because we went in the evening before having had dinner, but I’d love to go back and spend some more time there next time I’m in LA.
Getty Center tours and activities
Getty Center Scavenger Hunt
The Getty Center Scavenger hunt is a 2- to 3-hours lasting quest that takes you through the museum’s galleries and gardens where you need to solve clues and complete challenges. The game can be played on any smartphone with 2 to 5 players.
Getty Center Private Tour
This private tour of the Getty Museum is led by an expert guide and takes 90 minutes. It’s available in English, French, Spanish, and Italian.
The Getty Center address: Attention! The official Getty museum address is 1200 Getty Center Drive, but if you’re using GPS to get there, you have to enter 1200 North Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90049 or the junction of N Sepulveda Blvd & Getty Center Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90049. That’s the Getty Center parking address.
The Getty Center opening hours at the time of writing:
- Tuesday–Friday and Sunday: 10:00 am–5:30 pm
- Saturday: 10:00 am–9:00 pm/li>
- Closed Mondays, January 1, Thanksgiving and December 25
Please check the website for up-to-date Getty Museum opening hours and to make sure there’s nothing special going on.
Getty museum admission fee: free
The Getty Center parking fee: $15 per car or motorcycle, 1$10 after 3 pm. There is no street parking near the Getty Center.
Good to know: You only have to buy one parking ticket if you want to visit the Getty Center and the Getty Villa in Malibu on the same day. Careful: this doesn’t work on Mondays and Tuesdays.
How to get to the Getty museum on public transportation: Metro bus lines 734 and 234 stop at the Getty Center entrance. The 734 line runs Monday-Friday while the 234 line runs during the weekends, on holidays, and on early and late weekday hours.
Good to know: you need exact change to pay on Metro buses
There’s also a drop-off area outside of the parking lot for those, well, being dropped off. This means you can also easily take a Lyft or an Uber here. If you don’t have an Uber account yet, I can give you a discount on your first ride if you sign up through my link.
Hotels near the Getty museum
If you’re looking for hotels near the Getty Center, these come highly recommended:
The 4-star 850 Hotel is located in West Hollywood, close to the Sunset Strip, and just a 15-minute drive from the Getty Center. Its spacious rooms are equipped with a flatscreen tv, a desk and air conditioning. Some have their own terrace. Both a continental breakfast and WiFi are included in the price while the private parking costs extra.
Gateway Hotel Santa Monica
The 3-star Gateway Hotel Santa Monica lies right on Santa Monica Boulevard, a little over 3 kilometers from the beach and less than a 15-minute drive from the Getty. The beautiful rooms are equipped with a flatscreen tv, air conditioning, a desk, a fridge, and a coffee maker. WiFi is free throughout the property and guests can also make use of the 24-hour gym. A free continental breakfast is served every morning and there’s even free parking – something that’s not easy to find around LA!
The Wilshire Motel is just a 10-minute drive from the Getty Center and offers air-conditioned rooms with a flatscreen tv and a fridge. WiFi is free throughout the property and guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast every morning. Free parking is possible at the hotel but make sure to reserve a spot when booking. Guests rave about the friendliness of the staff.
If you’re looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I recommend checking airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
How to get to LA
I flew from Brussels Airport to LAX via New York JFK and rented a car for the duration of my trip.
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Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you book something through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.